Good visions, bad micro-management and ugly ambiguity: Contradictions of (non-)leadership in a knowledge-intensive organization

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This article investigates how managers position themselves and their work in terms of leadership in a large knowledge-intensive company. The significance of contemporary discourse on leadership, practical aspects of managerial work, and ambiguity as a central dimension of organization and leadership (particularly in knowledge-intensive settings) are highlighted. We examine the presumed leadership in a company with respect to the three 'moral' and 'aesthetic' positions or aspects of leadership: good, bad and ugly leadership. The article shows how managers incoherently move between different positions on leadership. The study undermines some of the dominant notions of leadership, for example, the leader as a consistent essence, a centred subject with a particular orientation to work. We suggest a less comfortable view of managers aspiring to adopt, but partly failing to secure leadership identities and a coherent view of their work. Value commitments appear as disintegrated and contradictory. The study indicates a need to radically rethink dominant ideas about leadership.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Business Administration

Keywords

  • leadership, management, ambiguity, identity work, knowledge-intensive firms
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)961-988
JournalOrganization Studies
Volume24
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes